MLB legend, Tim Raines took the time to speak with me about why he believes he is worthy of being inducted into the Hall of Fame. In this portion of an interview done on Monday, May 14, 2012, Raines explains why he deserves to get the call that everyone wants. You don’t want to miss Raines plead his case for immortality.
In his 1986 edition of Baseball Abstract, Bill James declared that Raines was “clearly the greatest lead-off man in National League history.”
If not for Rickey Henderson, the all-time steals and runs leader, Raines would automatically be in the best-leadoff-man-in-history conversation. He is in the conversation now, ever so briefly. There’s only one Rickey though.
Raines stole 808 bases, fifth all time, and his success rate of of 84.6 percent is first among players with at least 500 stolen bases. In order behind him in percentage are Willie Wilson (668, 83.4 percent), Davey Lopes (557, 83 percent), Joe Morgan (689, 81 percent), Vince Coleman (752, 80.9 percent) and the all-time leader in stolen bags, Rickey Henderson (1,406, 80.8 percent).
Lou Brock, a Hall of Famer, was safe on just 75 percent of his stolen base attempts.
However, Rickey always comes to mind when you think of Raines and being a leadoff hitter. When you compare Tim’s numbers to Henderson, Raines’ numbers don’t stand out as much as normal. He reached base 3,977 times (Rickey: 5,343), including 2,605 hits (Rickey: 3,055) and 1,330 walks (Rickey: 2,190). His on-base percentage was .385 to Rickey’s .401.
Sure, Raines led the National League in stolen bases four times and runs twice. However, Henderson led the American League in steals 12 times and runs five times.
All that doesn’t look great, but yet again, there is and will forever be only one Rickey Henderson.
The switch-hitting “Rock”, as Raines was commonly known as, was a seven-time All-Star, won a batting title and completed his career with an excellent .385 on-base percentage, along with a career .294 batting average. His career Offensive WAR of 64.8 is 70th best all time. He’s 51st all time in runs (1,571), 35th in walks (1,330) and fifth in stolen bases (808).
Plus he was an excellent defensive fielder, posting the 19th-highest fielding percentage for a left fielder (.988).
Raines finished in the top five in steals nine times, in the top five in on-base percentage six times and in the top five in most times reaching base six times. He finished first or second in runs scored four times. He finished in the top three in three batting races.
One of the only things stopping Raines, besides Rickey, is one and half lost seasons. After a kidney biopsy on July 23, 1999, Raines was diagnosed with lupus and spent the rest of the year undergoing treatment and recovery. However, Raines came back after his year of treatment and still looked like the old Rock.
The other thing he did wrong was he played most of his career for the Montreal Expos. No doubt, if he had found his way onto a higher profile team earlier in his career, he’d be getting more attention for the hall now.
When you look at all those things, maybe Raines doesn’t have a slum-dunk case, but he has a pretty damn good case. In my opinion, he’s a hall-of-famer and the fact that he has yet to be recognized as such is a travesty. I’m not the only one that thinks that though.
“A Hall of Fame position player has got to be a five-tool player, or at least a four-tool player,” said Whitey Herzog, who managed the St. Louis Cardinals when both St. Louis and Montreal were in the National League East. “But when you are talking about an offensive threat on the base paths, Tim Raines might have been the best. Tim Raines was the kind of base runner that you could not stop. You couldn’t stop that son of a gun when he got on first base. He was going to steal second. That’s why he should be given a lot of consideration [for the hall].”